by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
It looked pretty good for Elk River-Zimmerman in their quest for a big statement victory on Thursday evening. The Elks led the Blaine Bengals, last year’s state runner-up, 2-0 at home with under four minutes remaining.
However, the No. 7 ranked Bengals struck twice within 90 seconds and salvaged a 2-2 tie in the Northwest Suburban Conference tussle.
“We feel good that, against a team this good, we were able to score the first two goals, and come away with a tie,” said Elk senior Grant Tesdahl.
Tesdahl and Storm Heyer scored in the first half for the Elks (5-1-2) and their defense was stifling the Bengals attack until the waning minutes.
Blaine’s Asher Bates scored on a header with 3:36 left off a corner-kick feed from Nathaniel Jacobson. The Bengals generated more pressure on Elk goalkeeper Cody Christ shortly after that, and Jacobson hit a brisk grounder past him to knot the score with 2:05 left.
Blaine (5-1-1) almost pulled out the win with a point-blank shot off another corner kick with eight seconds left. This time Christ made a diving stop just before the ball broke the plane.
In the overtimes, each team had one corner kick but no strong shots on goal.
While the Elks were disappointed to let an upset win slip away, coach Aaron Lindquist noted that the outcomes against two top-ten-ranked conference rivals — the tie with Blaine, and 1-0 overtime loss to Anoka last week — showed that the Elks are virtually a top-ten team themselves.
“We think we can play with anybody,” he said. “And we are still right in it, with regard to the conference race.”
There’s a logjam in the NWSC standings with Blaine 2-0-1, Anoka 3-1, Osseo 3-1-1, Maple Grove 3-1-1, Centennial 3-1-1, and Elks 2-1-1.
Tesdahl scored for the second straight game after missing one due to a gash above his left eye suffered in a collision against Anoka. He scored on a header off a corner kick from Joey Benz.
Tesdahl said he had to be careful “heading” the ball, due to the soreness of the wound above his eye, but Benz placed the corner kick just right with relation to the goalie, and Tesdahl was able to tip his neck forward and make contact with the top of his head.
Heyer made it 2-0 with a howitzer of a shot on a free kick from about 30 yards out, just under the crossbar, just above the reach of goalie Alex Beck. It was Heyer’s seventh goal of the year.
The Elks will host Park Center on Tuesday.